They had stopped at a quiet, high spot off the undulating drive that wound like a lazy serpent for many miles out of the city. It widened into the freeway up ahead, beyond the hillside woods. Terry had parked the vehicle at the edge of the slope. He and Madeleine sat on the hood of the car, gazing out over the picture-perfect view of the city in the dark valley below.
From here, the city looked almost innocent, matrixes of little lights, like dew on a spider's web, like a reflection of the stars in the sky. It receded to the black silhouette of the mountains in the horizon. A few police helicopters passed over the skyscrapers, casting their beams of white light down, and planes circled above the airport, awaiting instructions to land. From this spot, the city looked enchanting. It looked beautiful.
Terry gazed over at the woman beside him. The rain drenched Madeleine's clothes and hair. She was shivering as she stared at the city one last time; the look in her eyes a perfect, cold goodbye.
Terry leaned over and tried to kiss her. She withdrew, not even glancing at him. He looked back at the city.
A few more seconds of silence passed. "Come on, let's go," Madeleine said and walked around the car, slumping back into the passenger seat.
There is a small door, no more than a meter tall. It is like a door in Alice's Wonderland itself, but it is set in the wall of a bedroom in the corner of an abandoned apartment. If we open this door and we slip through its tiny frame, we find ourselves in an impossible room, a room that cannot exist within the building's dimensions.
This is now an underground room, a dark, secret place. In this room, there are hundreds, thousands of Möbius strips. They hang from the ceiling in an intricate tapestry of white paper bands.
They are burning now. They are all burning up. The smoke fills the room in a heavy, dark haze. Ashes fall to the floor, twirling and dancing through the air like black snow.
There are now two figures sitting on the floor, facing each other. They sit cross-legged, motionless under the flames and the heavy smoke, as though it is not dangerous to them at all. One is a hooded man in a dark robe, his hood a ridiculously tall cone-shape in stiff, black fabric that covers his face. The other is a naked man, his pale skin covered in dark, congealing animal blood. He wears a horse's head like a mask, like a hat for a mad hatter.
The hooded man reaches up with steady, bony hands. He removes his hood.
The naked man removes the horse head.
We see their faces now.
The Möbius strips are burning up.
Terry and Madeleine reached the freeway within minutes. Madeleine leaned her head against the cold windowpane. The flat, lifeless landscape slipped past them in a blur. Birds sat in long rows on the telegraph wires. There were a few trees, dead and leafless. Madeleine was tired. Her body ached. She turned in her seat; her seatbelt unfastened. She craned her neck to look through the rear windshield. The city was gone now, no matrix of lights in the horizon. There were only browning grass meadows, a couple of farms, and the scattered traffic of the freeway. There was only the distance.
"This was what you wanted, right?" Terry said, giving her a weary sideways glance. "You wanted to leave the city."
Madeleine did not respond. She leaned her head against the side window again.
Rain poured from darkening skies.
She closed her eyes.